|Height:||160 cm (5' 3'')|
|Birth Day:||January 8, 1937|
|Birth Place:||Tiger Bay, Wales|
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
|160 cm (5' 3'')||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
She was discouraged by school teachers from having such a powerful voice. She left school when she was 14 to sing in public houses.
In 1955, Bassey toured various theatres until she was noticed by the impresario Jack Hylton. He invited her to feature in Al Read's Such Is Life at the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End.
During the show's run, Philips record producer Johnny Franz spotted her on television, was impressed, and offered her a recording deal. Bassey recorded her first single, "Burn My Candle", released in February 1956, when she was 19. Owing to the suggestive lyrics, the BBC banned it. More singles followed, and in February 1957, Bassey had her first hit with "The Banana Boat Song", which reached No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart.
In 1957 she also recorded under the direction of American producer Mitch Miller in New York City for the Columbia Records label (which at the time had a distribution deal with Philips), producing the single "If I Had a Needle and Thread" b/w "Tonight My Heart She Is Crying". She then made her American stage début in Las Vegas at El Rancho Vegas.
In mid-1958, she recorded two singles that would become classics in the Bassey catalogue. "As I Love You" was released as the B-side of another ballad, "Hands Across the Sea"; it did not sell well at first, but after an appearance at the London Palladium sales began to pick up. In January 1959, "As I Love You" reached No. 1 and stayed there for four weeks; it was the first No. 1 single by a Welsh artist.
In the early and mid-1960s, Bassey had numerous hits in the UK, and five albums in the Top 15. Her 1960 recording of "As Long As He Needs Me" from Lionel Bart's Oliver! reached No. 2, and had a chart run of 30 weeks. Bassey made her American television début on 13 November 1960, when she performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. Her collaboration with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra, the album Let's Face the Music (1962), reached No. 12 in the UK album chart; and the single, "What Now My Love" made it to No. 5. Other UK Top 10 singles of the period included her second No. 1, the double A-side "Reach for the Stars"/"Climb Ev'ry Mountain" (1961), "I'll Get By" (also 1961), and a cover version of the Ben E. King hit "I (Who Have Nothing)" in 1963. Bassey appeared on the cover of Ebony magazine in 1963, and sang at a Washington gala celebrating President Kennedy's second year in office.
Bassey's first marriage was to Kenneth Hume in 1961. The couple separated in 1964 and divorced in 1965 in the wake of the singer's affair with actor Peter Finch. Bassey then announced to the press that she and Finch would not be marrying, telling the press: "It simply wouldn't work out. Just now I am not ready for marriage to anyone. I feel I have to be free." A year later, Hume sued the actor and another man, John McAuliffe, for being "indiscreet" with the singer. Both Finch and McAuliffe were cited as co-respondents in the Hume–Bassey divorce. For her part, Bassey was named as co-respondent in 1965 when Finch's wife, South African actress Yolande Turner, divorced the actor.
Bassey made her Carnegie Hall debut on 15 February 1964. The complete concert recording was not released until it was included in the EMI compilation 'The EMU/UA Years 1959-1979' (ref: AllMusic review by Bruce Eder).
Bassey enjoyed her only US Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1965 with the title song of the James Bond film, Goldfinger. The single, released in the United States during January 1965, peaked at No. 8, while the original soundtrack of Goldfinger hit No. 1 in the US that year. Also in 1965, she sang the title song for the James Bond spoof The Liquidator, and had a Top 20 live album, recorded during a sold-out run at the Pigalle in London.
In 1965, according to an article in Jet, "There is a big dispute in London over who is the father of tempestuous singer Shirley Bassey's baby. Although one-time boyfriend actor Peter Finch agreed that the child may not belong to Shirley's divorced husband, Kenneth Hume, Finch insists she does not belong to him ... "
The "Goldfinger" theme song, however, had a lasting impact on her career. In the sleeve notes for Bassey's 25th Anniversary Album (1978), Peter Clayton noted that: "Acceptance in America was considerably helped by the enormous popularity of ("Goldfinger")...But she had actually established herself there as early as 1961, in cabaret in New York. She was also a success in Las Vegas...'I suppose I should feel hurt that I've never been really big in America on record since "Goldfinger"...But, concertwise, I always sell out.'..." This was reflected in the fact that Bassey had only one solo LP reach the Top 20 in a US chart (R&B, Live at Carnegie Hall), and she was technically a one-hit wonder. In the aftermath of "Goldfinger" her UK sales started to falter as well: only two of her singles would enter the UK Top 40 from 1966 to 1970. She had signed to United Artists, and her first album on that label, I've Got a Song for You (1966), spent one week on the chart; from 1966 to 1970, only two albums would chart, one of those a compilation. One of her best-known singles, "Big Spender" was released in 1967, charting just short of the UK Top 20.
Bassey began to live as a tax exile in 1968, and was unable to work in Britain for almost two years. Also in 1968, at the Sanremo Festival in Italy, she performed "La vita", an Italian song by Bruno Canfora and Antonio Amurri, with some lyrics re-written in English by Norman Newell for her. Bassey's version of the song, with its chorus sung in Italian, became a Top 40 hit in Italy. Bassey recorded several songs in Italian, some appearing on the album La vita (1968). (Later, Newell would write English lyrics for the rest of "La vita", and the result was "This Is My Life".) But her UK sales continued to suffer.
In 1969, she appeared in NBC's The Spring Thing, a musical television special hosted by Bobbie Gentry and Noel Harrison. Guests included were Goldie Hawn, Meredith MacRae, Irwin C. Watson, Rod McKuen, and Harpers Bizarre.
Bassey's UK comeback came in 1970, leading to one of the most successful periods of her career. Starting the year with a BBC Television 'Special' The Young Generation Meet Shirley Bassey, recorded in Sweden and shown on BBC1 on 18 March. She returned to the UK with a record-breaking run of performances at the Talk of the Town nightclub. Also that year, her album Something was released, and showcased a new Bassey style, a shift from traditional pop to more contemporary songs and arrangements (the eponymous single was more successful in the UK charts than the original recording by The Beatles) – although Bassey would never completely abandon what that had been her forte: standards, show tunes, and torch songs.
Between 1970 and 1979, Bassey had 18 hit albums in the UK Albums Chart. Her album The Magic Is You (1979) featured a portrait by the photographer Francesco Scavullo. In 1973, her sold-out concerts at New York's Carnegie Hall were recorded and released as a two-LP set, Shirley Bassey: Live at Carnegie Hall. This album and the majority of her recordings from this period have been released on CD by EMI and BGO Records. Returning to the James Bond franchise, she recorded the theme song for Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
Bassey appeared on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, broadcast on Christmas Day in 1971. Bassey starred in the six-episode The Shirley Bassey Show (1976), the first of her television programmes for the BBC, followed by a second series of six episodes in 1979. The final show of the first series was nominated for the Golden Rose of Montreux in 1977. The series featured guests including Neil Diamond, Michel Legrand, The Three Degrees and Dusty Springfield and featured Bassey in various international locations as well as in the television studio. In 1978, Bassey pleaded guilty to being drunk and disorderly "after shouting abuse in the street and pushing a policeman". In 1979, Bassey recorded the title theme song for the Bond film, Moonraker.
Bassey was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions: in November 1972 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at Heathrow Airport, and in January 1993, when Michael Aspel surprised her at the curtain call of a sell-out concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
Sergio Novak, the assistant manager of the Excelsior Hotel in Venice, Lido, Italy, and Bassey were married from 1968 until they divorced in 1979. Novak served as Bassey's manager throughout this time. With Novak she adopted her grand-nephew, Mark.
In 1985, Samantha, age 21, was found dead in the River Avon in Bristol, England. Bassey has always maintained that the death of her daughter was not a suicide. On 24 March 2010, Avon and Somerset Police confirmed they were undertaking fresh inquiries into the death, and specifically claims that the convicted killer Michael Moffat was involved in her death. However, in October 2010 it was reported that the investigation came to an end and concluded that there "is no evidence of any criminal act involved" in Novak's death. The ordeal of losing her daughter caused Bassey to temporarily lose her voice.
Throughout most of the 1980s, Bassey focused on charitable work and performing occasional concert tours throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States. She had ended her contract with United Artists, whose former record division was now part of EMI, and began what she referred to as "semi-retirement". Bassey recorded an album entitled All by Myself (1982) and made a TV special for Thames Television called A Special Lady with guest Robert Goulet. Around this time she recorded a duet with the French film actor Alain Delon, "Thought I'd Ring You" (1983). Bassey was now recording far less often but an album of her most famous songs, I Am What I Am (1984), was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) conducted by Carl Davis. This was followed by a single and video to support the London Tourist Board, "There's No Place Like London" (1986), which was co-written by Lynsey de Paul and Gerard Kenny. She recorded an album of James Bond themes, The Bond Collection in 1987, but was apparently unhappy with the results so she declined to release it. (Five years later it was released anyway, Bassey sued in court, and all unsold copies were withdrawn.)
Bassey provided vocals for Swiss artists Yello on "The Rhythm Divine" (1987), a song co-written by Scottish singer Billy Mackenzie. An album sung entirely in Spanish, La Mujer was released in 1989. In the latter mid-1980s Bassey had started working with a vocal coach, a former opera singer, and her album Keep the Music Playing (1991) displayed a grand, operatic pop style on several songs (perhaps also influenced by her album with the LSO seven years earlier).
EMI released the five-CD box set Bassey – The EMI/UA Years 1959–1979 in 1994. The accompanying booklet opened with a poem by Marc Almond. Bassey collaborated with Chris Rea in the film La Passione (1996), appearing in the film as herself and releasing the single "'Disco' La Passione". The remix of this single charted just outside the UK top 40. Bassey's "History Repeating" (1997), written for her by the Propellerheads, reached No. 1 on the UK Dance Chart, and No. 10 on the US Dance Chart. It was also a Top 10 hit in Italy. The liner notes of the Propellerheads' album Decksandrumsandrockandroll included the lines: "We would like to extend our maximum respect to Shirley Bassey for honouring us with her performance. We are still in shock...." Bassey celebrated her 60th birthday in 1997 with two open-air concerts, at Castle Howard and Althorp Park, and another TV special. The resulting live album The Birthday Concert received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. On 7 October 1998 in Egypt, Bassey performed for a benefit at an open-air concert close to the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid. Bassey played the Friday night at Henley Festival in 1984.
Two popular Audiences with Shirley Bassey have aired on British television, one in 1995 that attracted more than 10 million viewers in the UK, with the second being broadcast in 2006. Bassey returned to perform in five arenas around the UK in June the same year, culminating at Wembley. She also performed a concert in front of 10,000 people at the Bryn Terfel Faenol Festival in North Wales broadcast by BBC Wales. Marks & Spencer signed her for their Christmas 2006 James Bond-style television advertising campaign. Bassey is seen in a glamorous Ice Palace singing a cover version of Pink's song "Get the Party Started", wearing an M&S gown.
Bassey was sued in a breach of contract case in 1998 by her former personal assistant, who also accused Bassey of hitting her and making an ethnic slur. Bassey won the case. The episode was lampooned by Alexander Baron in his one-act play The Trial of Shirley Bassey. The following year, she performed the official song for the rugby World Cup, "World in Union", with Bryn Terfel at the opening ceremony at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, wearing a gown designed on the Welsh flag. Their single made the Top 40, and Bassey contributed two more songs to the official album Land of My Fathers, which reached No. 1 on the UK compilations chart, and went silver.
In a 1999 interview with Nigel Havers in her Monte Carlo apartment, Bassey pointed to a piece of paper framed on the wall and referred to it as her first contract, at a salary of £14 a week (a considerable sum for a sixteen-year-old in 1953). However, upon closer inspection, this document, dated 17 December 1953 (three weeks before her 17th birthday), appears to promise £10 for two performances. Also in 1953, Bassey signed a contract to sing in the touring variety show Memories of Jolson, a musical based on the life of Al Jolson. She next took up a professional engagement in Hot from Harlem, which ran until 1954.
Bassey was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on 31 December 1999 by Queen Elizabeth II for services to entertainment. She was invited to perform in 2002 at the Party at the Palace, a public celebration of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. Dame Shirley also performed at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace on 4 June 2012, singing "Diamonds Are Forever". She was invited to perform at the Queen's 90th Birthday celebrations at Windsor Castle on 15 May 2016.
In 2001, Bassey was principal artiste at the Duke of Edinburgh's 80th birthday celebration. On 3 June 2002 she was one of a prestigious line-up of artists including Elton John, Paul McCartney and Tom Jones who performed at the Queen's 50th Jubilee Party at Buckingham Palace. Bassey celebrated 50 years in show business in 2003 with the release of the CD Thank You for the Years, which was another Top 20 album. A gala charity auction of her stage costumes at Christie's, "Dame Shirley Bassey: 50 Years of Glittering Gowns", raised £250,000 (US$500,000) for the Dame Shirley Bassey Scholarship at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Noah's Ark Children's Hospital Appeal. Bassey topped the bill at the 2005 Royal Variety Performance, introducing her new song "The Living Tree".
"The Living Tree", written, produced and originally recorded by the group Never the Bride, was released as a single on 23 April 2007, marking Bassey's 50th anniversary in the UK Singles Chart – and the record for the longest span of Top 40 hits in UK chart history. Bassey performed a 45-minute set at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival wearing a pink Julien Macdonald dress, and customised Wellington boots. A new album, Get the Party Started, was subsequently released on 25 June 2007 and entered the UK Albums Chart at No. 6. The single of the title song reached No. 3 on the US Dance Chart. The same year, Bassey performed "Big Spender" with Elton John at his annual White Tie and Tiara Ball to raise money for The Elton John AIDS Foundation. In 2007, Bassey performed in Fashion Rocks in aid of The Prince's Trust at the Royal Albert Hall.
She was rushed to hospital in Monaco on 23 May 2008 to have an emergency operation on her stomach after complaining of abdominal pains. She was forced to pull out of the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Tribute concert because of her illness. A biography, Diamond Diva, was published in 2008.
Bassey recorded the album The Performance (2009), with James Bond composer David Arnold as co-producer (with Mike Dixon). A number of artists wrote songs expressly for Bassey, including Manic Street Preachers, Gary Barlow, Tom Baxter, KT Tunstall, Pet Shop Boys, Nick Hodgson of the Kaiser Chiefs, John Barry and Don Black. Bassey headlined at the BBC Electric Proms on 23 October 2009, in her only full live set of 2009. She performed several of the new songs from The Performance in November 2009 on various TV shows: The Graham Norton Show, The Paul O'Grady Show and as the guest singer on Strictly Come Dancing.
In a 2009 interview, Bassey stated that she and her son, Mark, had reconciled. Bassey has four grandsons through her surviving daughter, Sharon Novak. Bassey resides in Monaco.
Bassey performed at a gala celebrating the 80th birthday of Mikhail Gorbachev on 30 March 2011. She also performed at the Classical Brit Awards in 2011, singing "Goldfinger" in tribute to John Barry.
The BBC broadcast a 70-minute drama entitled Shirley on 29 September 2011, depicting Bassey's early life and career. Ruth Negga played the title role. Bassey was one of the line-up of artists on 4 June 2012 who performed at the Queen's 60th Jubilee Party at Buckingham Palace, singing "Diamonds Are Forever". She performed at the 2013 Academy Awards on 24 February 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movie franchise. It was her first appearance at an Oscars ceremony as a performer. She sang "Goldfinger" to a standing ovation.
In 2012, Bassey was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires. In 2016, she was named as one of "the 50 greatest Welsh men and women of all time".
Bassey performed "I'm Still Here" and "The Lady Is A Tramp" on 13 November 2014 at the 2014 Royal Variety Performance in the presence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Her album, Hello Like Before was released on 17 November 2014. It includes a 50th-anniversary re-recording of "Goldfinger" (recreating the original orchestration) and a duet of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" with Paloma Faith, produced and conducted by Stuart Barr.
In December 2016, Bassey starred in a 60-minute BBC broadcast hosted by David Walliams.
In November 2016 the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama announced the naming of the Shirley Bassey Studio in celebration of Bassey's long-standing support for young Welsh singers studying at the College. She was awarded France's top honour, the Legion d'Honneur, to signify her popularity and importance in the culture of France. Bassey was awarded the freedom of her hometown, Cardiff, in a ceremony at City Hall on 17 May 2019.
On 11 March 2018, Bassey performed "Almost Like Being In Love" in a tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth at the London Palladium. At a gala for AMFAR (The Foundation for Aids Research) in Los Angeles on 18 October 2018, Bassey sang "Goldfinger", "Diamonds Are Forever", "Almost Like Being In Love" and "I Am What I Am".
In 2018, Bassey reported that she had a great-granddaughter.
On 9 August 2019, Dame Shirley performed at UNICEF's Summer Gala in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, singing "Goldfinger", "Diamonds Are Forever" and "S'Wonderful". Bassey appeared on the Ball & Boe TV Christmas Special on Friday 20 December 2019, singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with Michael Ball and Alfie Boe.
Currently, Shirley Bassey is 86 years, 4 months and 29 days old. Shirley Bassey will celebrate 87th birthday on a Monday 8th of January 2024.
Find out about Shirley Bassey birthday activities in timeline view here.